Dining in Syria

Overview by Globlatrade.net:
Categories of Restaurant
  • Food stands
Many possibilities to eat around at food stands (on the run): shawarmas sandwiches, falafels, saj (small flat cakes) manakiche (small pizzas) and many stands of hummus.
  • Popular restaurants
Small inexpensive diners:  mezzes (hummus, mouttabal, salad fattoush/taboule, eggplants makdus...), soups, kebabs.
  • More formal restaurants
Located mainly in Damascus and Aleppo.  Traditional menu including mezze, soups, kebabs, stews and other traditional dishes.
Rules For Eating Out
Service is guaranteed almost at any time in most of the restaurants.
Prices are usually indicated without tax.
Bottled water and table napkins, usually distributed even before having given the order, are added to the bill as an extra charge (at a very reasonable price).

Price Indications

Economy Meal Between SYP 20 and 75 for saj, manakich, shawarmas, falafels.
Medium Price Meal Between SYP 100 and 500
Good Quality Meal From SYP 500 to 1,200.
Food Specialties
The Syrian specialties are very close to the Lebanese, Greek and Turkish ones. The dishes are usually very spicy and very varied. Some of the cooking specialties are:

- Mezzes, cold or hot appetizers like hummus (mashed chickpeas), muttabal (eggplant's caviar), baba ghanouge (a combination of minced vegetables seasoned with a pomegranate sauce), Kubbehs (round-shaped flour cooked dough stuffed with beef, onion and nuts), Yabrak (vine leaves stuffed with rice and shredded beef), etc.

- Brochettes (the kebab with cherries, a specialty of Aleppo), grilled meats, kefte, mloukhia (spinach), etc.

You will automatically be given mineral water at table. There are many carbonated drinks as well, but American sodas are banned: so you will have to taste the local equivalents. In towns, many shops offer delicious fresh fruit juices. Lan is a very liquid yogurt served as a drink with mezze dishes. Coffee is Turkish-style kawa. Sometimes they serve green coffee flavored with cardamom. Tea is popular in Arab cafés, sometimes flavored with cinnamon, cardamom or various flowers. There are two brands of beer: Barada and Al-Sharq. Syria has always produced wine in its southern province. Arak is the aperitif flavored with aniseed, known as ouzo in Greece and raki in Turkey.
Dietary Restrictions
Alcohol is not subject to any restrictions except during the period of Ramadan when it is forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages in public places even for non-Muslims.
Table Manners
A traditional Syrian meal consists of several mezzes as well as several main dishes. This assortment of dishes are placed at the table. It is possible to serve them all on a plate or eat them from the appetizer plates using portions of bread.

The meal ends with a tea and a nargileh (this can be also consumed during the meal).

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